Every single American and every person thinking of going to business school (and especially those in Business School) needs to see the documentary, Inside Job. This film is one of the most powerful, well-made and brave documentaries I have ever seen, and I have seen a heck of a lot of docs having been a programmer and documentary producer/director for the last two decades. I do not understand why this film is not being distributed widely, as it deserves a massive budget to promote it and the message it communicates so well. It needs to be shown to all high school students as a warning and should be required for all undergraduates who decide to study Economics, Business, Marketing, Women's Studies, Education... basically everyone should see it.
Because not understanding what has happened is already leading us to repeat our mistakes. Don't be fooled, those who created this depression, and we must call it what it is, are still in positions of power, and are still being paid huge sums of money to influence the economy, and worst of all, young people who are the future generations who will one day be running the businesses, economy, governments of the world.
The film is better than most thrillers and the bad guys and good guys (or in this case, an amazing woman) are so well defined and fascinating that you cannot stop watching for even a moment. The woman who should be a hero for all Americans, Brooksley Born, was the head of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, and one of the few people who stood up to those who took down our economy, namely Larry Summers, Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin. Ms. Born told the truth when no one else would. She was undermined by both dangerous ideologies which stole her power to regulate derivatives, and the greed of Wall Street with its powerful lobbyists and supporters.
Another woman featured in the documentary is the French Finance Minister, Christine Lagarde, who also has been outspoken about the dysfunctional nature of what was going on in the so-called hallowed halls and wood paneled executive offices of the banks. If we had women such as these two, along with trustworthy people such as Elizabeth Warren, running the show, I would wager we would not be in the economic mess we are today.
But the most disturbing part of the film for me was that not only have most of the criminals who stole from the American people not gone to prison, they have been rewarded, but that their approach to business and profit-making is being taught in what are considered to be the best Business Schools in the United States.
I felt ashamed for our top Business Schools in America when I heard the professors from Harvard, Columbia, Chicago, Northwestern, etc. demonstrate their complete ignorance as to how their teachings and philosophies (if you can call them that) helped lead to this disaster; they simply sounded arrogant and frankly stupid. They came across as out of touch and without a hint of understanding of their role in leading generations of students to buy into what is so obviously an immoral approach to participating in and running a world economy. In other words, not one of them seemed to think that perhaps they were wrong. Not one of them apologized, and in fact, they attempted to hide their ties to large corporations on whose boards they served, who financed their research and who paid them to write, publish and repeat precisely the things that supported the corruption and fraud which is ruining us.
This must stop and the people who are promoting this unsustainable, even criminal, way of running economies, corporations and people's lives should not be teaching future generations about how to do things when they have undermined and are destroying our country and destabilizing many countries around the world. Their greed, added to the lack of moral hazard, is leading to increases in poverty and hardship for billions of human beings.
We talk about war in Iraq and Afghanistan, but what is happening within our borders and being replicated in financial centers across the globe is highly toxic, and doing more damage than any war being conducted with missiles, bombs and soldiers. And for generations, students from around the world have wanted to come to the US to study at our Business Schools, yet now our very way of functioning is being questioned. How can we expect others to respect our academic institutions when they are bought and paid for by an unhealthy system?
I would argue this economic warfare has been going on for longer than most of us realize, but the soldiers at JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, the late Lehman Brothers, etc., have been fighting a dirty war they helped create. Some of them have fallen and now the even more concentrated power and wealth, which resulted as the number of their competitors dwindled, is continuing to spread and replicate a way of doing things which we already know will bring more hardship for the majority of the planet. The few rays of hope are in the Sustainable Business degrees and courses being taught in a few schools, but mostly the hope resides in those students who are questioning the status quo and demanding a more moral and just approach to Business and Economics.
Perhaps the goal was to centralize the power into fewer economic players so that they could more readily compete with the huge emerging market banks in China and elsewhere, and to go up against the oligarchs in Russia and India, but the fallout is that Democracy is at stake and our US banks are now playing by rules which have nothing to do with what America stands for, and, in fact, is destroying our foreign policy as other countries no longer trust us to do the right thing.
Just yesterday I was at a conference in Europe where the Future of Strategic Partnerships was being discussed, and the US was not being considered in the same way as it had in the past. This is primarily because of the way Wall Street hurt both the US economy and Europe, selling their own people, and other countries and their banks, pension funds, governments our bad loans. They are pretty angry at us for basically destabilizing even those economies which had been responsible, had savings, and whose people pay higher taxes in the US. In other words, the US contagion spread, and it has destroyed in some cases, our reputation so badly, that diplomatic, economic and even military partnerships are being affected.
I hope that some responsible business leader or a group of them will get together and make sure that the film Inside Job is shown near and on campuses across the country and around the world. The signs of hope really lie with these future generations questioning those who came before them. The problem is, most business students are in it for the money, not all, but many of them. But business can also be a noble endeavor. It can also be approached as a way to create a better world. I hope and pray that those in the film who are speaking up and do hold positions of power, will be able to help change things. But we need to take a hard look at what we are teaching our children.
What good is a Harvard MBA if one does not lead a life of integrity? We should teach our children to leave this planet better than it was when they arrived. And sadly, they are going to have a lot of hard work ahead of them to clean up our mess.